Does your child have difficulty concentrating in the classroom, are they constantly fidgeting or staring off into space? Below you will find information to help explain these behaviours and some simple tips and tricks that may help your child concentrate in the classroom.
Children spend a significant amount of time in the classroom each day. If the ‘environment’ isn’t quite right for your child they may have difficulty concentrating and therefore have difficulty learning. This can often look like they are misbehaving or daydreaming when really they are having trouble focusing and are trying to meet their ‘sensory needs’.
You may have heard the terms ‘sensory needs’ or ‘sensory processing’ before. They refer to a person’s senses; touch, taste, smell, vision, hearing, movement and body position, and how your brain interprets these senses. Everyone experiences these senses differently and it is how they are experienced and responded to that can influence what we do, and how we do it. For example, some people really enjoy noises and music, so much so that they play music while studying or hum while they are playing. Alternatively, others can find any kind of noise a distraction when trying to concentrate.
In a busy classroom, it can be difficult to meet the individual needs of every student to optimise their learning. This is where occupational therapists come in; we can assist with determining what your child’s sensory needs are, and how they can be met. You can read more about sensory processing in a previous Evolving Potential Blog ‘The secrets to the mystery of sensory processing’.
The environment needs to be ‘just right’ for the child’s senses to best encourage learning. Some children, particularly those living with ASD, SPD or a developmental delay, may have trouble organising their senses and may experience them more or less intensely than their peers. If you imagine a constant beeping noise while you are trying to drive, you can quickly see how it would be difficult to concentrate on the road and you are likely to become irritated or distracted. For some kids, this can be a common experience and can start to explain their ‘misbehaving’ or ‘daydreaming’ and be an indicator that their senses are experiencing high or low intensities of their surroundings. When they are swinging on their chair, covering their ears or staring at the fan they are problem solving this mismatch of sensory experiences for themselves, also known as self-regulation. Self-regulation is an important skill for children to have in day-to-day life, but sometimes their unique ways of meeting their sensory needs interferes with other activities, such as learning in the classroom. As parents, teachers and occupational therapists, we need to provide kids with ways of meeting these same needs that are practical for the classroom, and that will promote learning.
Tips and tricks: